JUSTICE LEAGUE

60

Emory
 

A silver key, as long as her pinky finger, rested in the center of Violet’s palm. A cold, metallic, very real key. A tiny, plastic butterfly hung off the key ring, dangling against her wrist.

Violet dropped the key. It clanged against the concrete. It shimmered and disappeared.

Try it again? Violet mused. It was a fluke. Her mind playing tricks. She wasn’t well. Seeing Iso, it had brought back all those thoughts, the terrible memories that weren’t hers. Just another illusion.

Violet clenched her fist, and she felt cold metal once more. Positive it couldn’t be true, Violet shoved the key into the lock and twisted.

There. Nothing happened.

click

The door opened. Violet pushed it wider and stepped inside; she left the key in the lock. The basement room was barren, save for boxes and old furniture. Violet made her way to a desk and pulled open a drawer. Empty. She checked all the drawers and found nothing. She wasn’t looking for anything. Maybe a trinket, a diary, a ghost from the past.

“If it isn’t the Violet Princess.” The floor creaked behind her, and Violet spun around. She saw blond hair and then---

***

Spring kissed the Hall of Justice, making the ground blush with early flowers. Winter had loosened its iron hold, beginning ever so slowly to let the Hall’s inhabitants frolic elsewhere than the tenebrific confines of their not-so-secret sanctum. Springtime always made Oreo wax lyrical. She adored the spring. The world was new again, washed clean of the sins of winter. Very soon the birds would come back, and she’d race them across the sky.

It wasn’t shorts weather yet, but Oreo wore them anyway. Scarlett, it must be noted, had lovely legs. This body no longer grated her sensibilities as it had when she first discovered herself imprisoned in this shell. Her mastery of this body increased by the hour, and she could run and skip and cartwheel nearly as well as one born under gravity’s thumb.

Under the trees, the snow lingered like an unwanted chaperone, preventing spring’s entry, but unable to keep Oreo out. She sang as she skipped along the path, the snow ahead steaming away. When her feet touched the path, it was dry.

Too soon the path brought her back to the Hall of Justice, with all its cheer and chaos. She stopped at the edge of the trees and smiled at its stone walls. Her home.

The day was too fine to head back into the Hall, but what should she do until the sun set? A moldering tree nearby caught her attention, and she directed her song to it. She’d been practicing this particular trick all weekend, but never on this grand a scale. The tree shook gently at first, shedding bark and snowbirds, then, as the moisture inside worked itself into a frenzy, the tree exploded. She ducked against the flying debris, giggling. She saw why the Tri-Leaders liked that so much.

“Morning, Miss Fyre.”

She turned around slowly and saw the small form of Modo Brightside, the Justice League’s gardener. He was pushing a wheelbarrow full of kitchen scraps.

Oreo cleared her throat. “Morning, Modo. You seem to be settling in well.”

“A tree just exploded behind you, Miss Fyre.”

“Yes, I know.”

The last of the debris pattered the snow.

“It was supposed to do that,” Oreo said.

“Do you mind if I take it for my compost pile?”

“Go for it.” She started for the Hall, heedless of the squelching mud beneath her sexy red heels. “Bye, Modo.”

“Bye, Miss Fyre.”

***

Oreo Avenger lay in bed, once again unable to sleep. Tonight, however, she had much to think about. They had their weekly meeting with Boyd Billeh today, where they discussed such matters as their plans for the week and the disgustingness of that new berry 7-Up. Pinzz, taking full advantage of Midnight's singular ability to talk without ever pausing for breath, started declaring a vendetta against 7-Up and ended with a story about mosquitoes in the Arctic.

During all that, Right-Wing Man, playing the part of Oreo Avenger, could not stop smiling and the former cat Eric kept saying "Bunzzzz. Bun-zah!"

Eventually, Boyd Billeh got to the main point of the meeting. Trumpo Industries was putting on a charity ball and the members of the Justice League were invited as Mr. Trumpo's honored guests. The main event of the evening was a charity date auction in which celebrities, such as the members of the Justice League, went on a date with the highest bidder. For charity.

There was objection, most notably from Drew who, as Right-Wing Man, gave a passionate speech regarding the slave trade in America, concluding with a call to throw off the shackles of the misogynistic cowboy regime and finally forge a land of freedom! Someone may or may not have thrown a doughnut at that point, but since no one was near the doughnuts at the time, it was attributed a mystery. Swift, as Studmuffin, looked particularly smug.

In the end, however, Boyd Billeh convinced them all to participate. He didn't seem to notice everyone's odd behavior, or if he did, he attributed it to normal superhero strangeness. In any event, he left soon after the meeting.

And so Oreo Avenger lay in bed, pondering the implications, when she sneezed quite explosively. Her skin felt tight. Her bed was smaller. Her night vision was sharper. She was back to her old self. A single moment passed while she took this in, and then she disappeared into blissful slumber.

***

Trumpo looked at the two top-ranking businesspeople of his many companies, who were seated to either side of him. Georgia had short blonde hair and high cheekbones, not to mention a distaste for women in business. Carroll, on the other hand, was balding, portly, and still thought that women fancied him, so he was all for businesswomen, with Georgia being an important exception. Something about Georgia chilled everyone to the bone.

“Which one would you say, of the three?” Trumpo asked Georgia.

“I think Samantha is just a little crazy. She’s zealous, but I don’t think she’d withstand the pressure this organization would demand.”

“Carroll?”

“I like Samantha. I think she had a lot to handle with this task, and Amaretto didn’t do anything. He deserved getting hit over the head with a roll of plastic wrap. I think Hyde was right in doing it.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear your thoughts on that even though I might completely disregard them based on the next two minutes,” Trumpo told them, and the pressed an intercom button conveniently set in front of him on the table. Carroll flinched for second, the way he always did. The “feed person I disagree with to the sharks” button was right next to the intercom button, and it wouldn’t be a first for Trumpo to mix them up.

“Boy Wonder? Let them in.”

In the waiting room just outside the conference room, Robin looked up. “Mr. Trumpo says you can go in.” Robin sighed and wondered when Batman would get back tonight, and if they’d get to wrestle any sweaty bad guys tonight. Ever since that incident with the Justice Yacht, Batman had been coming home late and forgetting to pay the bills. This spot on the third season of Trumpo’s hit show, “The Tyro,” was the only way Robin could afford clothes and motorcycles, now that his sugar dadd-er, loyal “partner” wasn’t around as often.

“Never should’ve left Gotham,” he muttered once the cameras had followed Samantha, Amaretto, and Hyde into the conference room.

“Samantha, Amaretto accused you of bad leadership. What do you have to say to that?”

“Mr. Trumpo, I’m an excellent leader. I think I’ve excelled in all the previous task-“

“Samantha, your teams have lost the last four tasks. How is that excelling?” Georgia asked.

“Amaretto is a very poor team worker. He complains constantly and-“

“Hyde hit me over the head with a roll of plastic wrap when I took a little bit longer than I planned on getting lunch. I have headaches-he could’ve given me cancer! And you say I don’t pull my weight?!”

“Hyde, do you think you were justified in doing that? Do you normally hit people over the head with rolls of plastic wrap?”

“Not normally, no sir, but I think in this case it was deserved.”

“Mr. Trumpo, I have struggled to bring this company up from where it has been floundering. I’m a strong black man and I have persevered despite excruciating physical pain all through this task,” Amaretto said, standing up. “Can someone get me a tissue?”

“I’ve heard all I need to hear. Samantha, you weren’t at your best today, and you didn’t compliment me on everything the way you normally do. I didn’t even hear anything about the incredibleness that I draw breathe every few seconds without even thinking about it.

“And Hyde, you’re a wild card. I like that, but it’s dangerous. I wouldn’t want you hitting me with a roll of plastic wrap. But I like you. I’d say you’re definitely safe. You have the potential to be my best tyro so far, if you can just control your self-righteous passion and clear up the issue with your sick mom that you’re a little over-attached to.

“But Amaretto, you haven’t shown me anything good this entire time, and frankly, I’d be surprised you made it this far if we didn’t know I was keeping you around this long to keep the ratings on “The Tyro” up. But we’re only a couple of weeks away from the live finale, so I think I’m safe in saying you should get some sleep. You can’t last in this town if you need more than three hours of sleep a week. Amaretto, you’re tired. Leave.”

“If you feel that way,” Amaretto said, standing up sharply. He ran out of the room, luggage and tissue in tow, and took the elevator down to the taxi waiting on him. In the elevator, he’d quickly pulled out and put on the black trench coat required for the brief walk in the brisk air between the entrance of Trumpo Tower and the taxi.

The credits for the show began to roll, along with Amaretto’s response to the accusation of being tired. “I never sleep. I’m like Seattle, or a black Tom Hanks in Seattle. I can’t believe Mr. Trumpo would think I rested on this task. I’m not some couch potato. I’m not a lazy boy.”

“It’s over! Can I change the channel now?” asked Scarlett, who was itching to watch her taped copy of Boston Legal so she could drool over James Spader for the third time in one day.

“No!” cried Oreo, Jo, Right Wing Man, and Xiao at the same time.

“They haven’t shown next week’s episode yet!” X-Raytor said.

At this, the credits filled the screen for a second, and then previews for the next show began. “Next week, Magnum Corp comes under the gun for handing out water guns at a school, and Net Profit Inc. struggles with opportunity costs! And be here two weeks from now, when the next Tyro is chosen after a star-studded, superhero auction extravaganza hosted by the Donnell himself!”

“There! It’s over!” Scarlett said, and ran up to put the tape in the VCR.

“Did they say something about a superhero auction?” Xiao asked, but no one heard her over James Spader/Alan Shore’s sexy liberal voice.

***

When Violet woke, the first thing she noticed was the throbbing headache. She felt as though she had been hit in the head with a brick, which (unfortunately) was not far off from the truth. The second thing Violet noticed was that she was tied to a bed in windowless room. Finally, the last thing Violet noticed was that there was someone else in the room with her.

And that’s when she screamed.

“Good morning to you, too,” the second person said. A rag appeared and muffled Violet’s screams. Enraged, Violet tore her hands from the ropes holding her down and lunged after the figure.

Where am I?

“Knock it off, Victoria. I’ve had to keep you drugged up for weeks and I’m tired of it.” The figure stepped into the light, unbothered by the attempted attack. Violet was back in her binds; she had never been gone from them. It was an illusion. “I hoped I wouldn’t have to use these.” The woman, blond and slim, held out two metallic bracelets. She quickly slipped them on Violet’s wrists and removed the rag from her mouth.

“What are you doing?”

“Stopping you from using your powers while we’re here.”

“No, I mean, why are you doing this to me, Blake?”

“Ah,” the woman smiled, “so you do remember me.” Blake pulled her hair back and twisted it under a clip. She walked to the end of the bed and rested her hands on one of the metal posts. “I hear you’ve made quite a name for yourself as a superhero. The Violet Princess. That’s clever, you know.” Blake touched at her hair. “Did you think that up?”

“Emory did.”

“Ah. Right. I remember. She was the brains, you were the brawn. You got yourselves into trouble, she got the two of you out.”

“That’s not true!” Violet barked. “Where is this leading, Blake?”

“Where is this leading? A very good question, Victoria. It’s leading to this: the one time she needed help, you abandoned her. You betrayed her. You betrayed me.” Blake stood upright and walked around to the side of the bed. “We were inseparable, us three. Emory, Vicky and Blake. Gran used to call me the third twin. We did everything together, not even high school could tear us apart.” Blake’s eyes flashed. “All those years, I kept your and Emory’s secret.”

“You were a good friend, Blake.”

Blake’s hand stuck Violet’s cheek. “Shut up!” Violet winced. “I trusted you, and I thought you trusted me. And then you convinced Emory to go to that party with you instead of studying with me, and you told her not to tell me. You snuck out using your magic powers and went to hang out with the popular kids.”

“Is that why you’re holding me here? Because we left you out?”

“No, that’s not why I’m holding you here,” Blake mocked. “You’re here for Emory. Because she’s gone and she can’t do this herself. It’s your fault Emory’s life was destroyed, and it’s your fault she got into the accident. Then, to top it all off, you left. You left to go save the world-and even when Gran died, and there was no one to take care of Emory, you still didn’t come back. So I was the one who visited her. I was the one who made sure the bills were paid. I was the one who went to the hospital and found her missing.”

“Blake, you have to understand-“

“No, Victoria, you have to understand. There’s something else. The night of the accident, I didn’t invite you over just to study. Being around you and Em, I must have picked up a few tricks of my own.” Blake stood back; she crossed her arms over her chest. At that moment, the bed began to rise, and it rose high. Violet could smell the sheet-rock that made up the ceiling, and it made her sneeze. Suddenly, the bed dropped back down.

“You’re a telekinetic.”

“We had something else in common; we really were soul sisters. But then you ruined it.”

With a horrible screech, the bed slid to the far wall. Violet slammed into the concrete, her wrists burned from the ropes.

“I had to leave, Blake. It’s because of Emory I left. We were planning on joining together.”

“Bullshit.” The bed screeched to another wall, throwing Violet like a puppet attached to the bedposts by her knotted strings. “I could kill you. I could crush your lungs without ever laying a finger on you.”

Violet gasped.

“But I won’t. Someone gave me an even better idea.” Suddenly, Blake held a syringe and a small bottle in the palm of her hand. “I can make you suffer like your sister did.”

“What will that do, Blake? It won’t bring Emory back.” Violet took a breath. “Don’t you think I suffered, too? She was my sister, Blake. My REAL sister. Who appointed you as her voice and my judge? ”

The rag was back in Violet’s mouth. Blake approached her eyes fiery. Violet struggled against the ropes to no avail. The blond woman filled the syringe with a clear liquid. Almost gracefully, she found the vein in Violet’s forearm and inserted the needle. Violet was paralyzed by Blake’s superpowers. And then, everything faded to gray.

“Vicky! Vicky!” Someone was shaking Violet’s shoulders. “Vicky, are you okay?” That voice was familiar. “I know you’re awake!” Violet smirked. She’d stay in bed a little longer, anything to annoy Emory.

Emory?

Violet’s eyes snapped open. She wasn’t in her room; she wasn’t even in her house. Kneeling in front of her was a young woman with chin-length, brown hair. “Hi.”

Emory was dressed exactly as she had been the night she got into the car-wreck. She wore a baby-tee boasting, “Too Good 4 U,” and a pair of homemade bell-bottoms. Her hair was held out of her face by two glittery butterfly clips. Emory was the mirror image of Violet-five years ago.

“Hi,” Violet replied. “Is this a dream? The doctors told me you were dead.”

Emory shrugged. One of the butterfly clips came loose and toppled from her hair. Violet reached out and caught it.

“Thanks.” Emory took the clip back and put it back in her hair. “I was looking through your memories. I think they were your memories. Before you got here. You’ve done some pretty cool stuff.”

“What?” Violet asked, very confused. She stood up and looked around. The two girls were in a white room devoid of any windows, doors or furniture. Violet couldn’t even really tell how big the room was. She turned to face Emory, who had also gotten to her feet. “Why do I feel like I’ve entered the Matrix?”

Emory gave her an equally confused look.

“Are you real?”

Emory shrugged again. “I think I am. I mean, the last thing I remember is driving home. And then I heard you scream, and I woke up in this place. I heard you talking to some other woman, but I didn’t know where you were. And then, I think I figured it out.”

“You know where we are?”

Emory stepped forward and took Violet’s hand; she used it to point to her own temple. “We’re here.”

“This has to be a dream.”

“Well, kinda. Not really. I think we somehow slided into another dimension. Like, a level of thinking where you can just, I don’t know, want it and have it. Like, I wanted to see you, so all of a sudden I had access to your memories.”

“What?” Violet raised one eyebrow. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Okay, I think-“ Emory paused. She looked squarely at her sister, and her eyes widened. “Why do you look so much older than me?”

“I suppose you haven’t gotten too far with your snooping,” Violet said disdainfully.

“You never minded when I read your diary.”

“You read my diary?”

“Yes,” Emory answered simply. “Now tell me why I’m 18 and you’re, like, 30.”

“Twenty-three,” Violet sighed. “You, the real you, were in a coma after you got into a car accident. You were drunk and, well, no one else was hurt. But you were asleep for five years until a few months ago when you died.”

“I’m dead?”

“Apparently.”

“No, I can’t be. I’d know if I was dead. Unless…maybe I was wrong. Okay, are you dead, too? Maybe this is limbo or something.”

“Um, well, the complicated thing about that is-“

But Emory had pulled a screen out of no where. She stood transfixed on the scene that was playing like a movie before her.

"Lying piece of @#%$!" Violet shouted after a well-dressed man who looked like a slightly older Brad Pitt. They were standing on the stage of a large theatre; a dramatic spotlight centered on the look-alike. Violet punched him hard in the stomach. "I’m going to feed you your spleen, you @#%$! I’m going to tear off what little manhood you have and feed it to the rats while you watch! Who’s suave now, ‘Brad’? Who’s suave NOW?!"

"I’m warning-" The Brad Pitt look-alike paused to spit out blood. "I’m warning you- get off me."

"Not a chance, sunshine," Violet said. She smirked and aimed a fist at his pretty Brad Pitt jawline.

"Have it your way then," he said. There was a loud bang. Violet’s body was thrown backward. She stumbled, looked at the wound in disbelief.

“You weak pig," Violet said. "You can’t even fight an unarmed girl? You need a gun?"

The Brad Pitt man pulled a small, metal box from his breast pocket. He winked at Violet Princess and pressed the red button. The heroine’s eyes glittered with anger. Brad Pitt man’s smug smile faltered. He looked up and saw above his head a very heavy and very real anvil. With a sickening thud, Violet’s corpse fell to the ground. And so did the anvil.

The screen disappeared, rolling itself up into nothingness. The younger twin didn’t speak at first. Her face was unreadable. Confused? Disgusted? “I guess I missed a lot while I was in a coma.” Suddenly, Emory smiled and threw her arms around her sister. “You are a real superhero!”

Violet was speechless. Something in her mind had clicked when she saw that clip, memory, whatever it was.

“What’s wrong?” Emory asked. She let go of the older woman and stepped backward. Violet’s eyes met Emory’s. They were filled with some mixture of fear and understanding, and that scared Emory. She took another step backward.

“How did Mum tell us apart when we were little?”

“You have a birthmark on your stomach shaped like a lollipop. Or a penis.” Violet glared at her sister. “And you told me that that stopped being funny in tenth grade. Right. Moving along.” Emory glanced at the floor; her cheeks had turned pink.

“Okay, I’m just trying to sort things out. You were always the thinker, Em, not me.” Slowly, Violet lifted her shirt to expose her stomach. Emory gasped. Her hand reached out and she lifted the shirt higher, but Violet’s tummy was bare. There was no birthmark.

Emory dropped the shirt and turned away. Violet could see that thoughts were racing through her sister’s mind. She was calculating, trying to figure things out. At that moment, Violet realized that this couldn’t be a dream-her mind could never recreate the vigor of the young woman before her. And, together, the two girls came to very startling conclusions.

“I’m not dreaming,” Violet announced at the same time Emory said, “I’m dead.”

“Okay, here’s what I think,” Emory began. “I was in a coma, right? And you died, right?” Violet nodded. “Okay, that happened more than a year ago. And then you came back. And you were different. You had to work out again, relearn how to fight, all that.”

“How do you know all this?” Violet looked over Emory’s shoulder and saw an open book floating in the air. As the pages turned, she caught glimpses of events, things that had happened to her. Emory was looking through her most recent memories after coming back.

Violet felt her cheeks go warm; Emory took no notice. She continued, “And, when you came back, you were missing your birthmark. Only you didn’t notice because you didn’t remember, like you didn’t remember me until a few weeks ago.” Tears were beginning to form in Emory’s eyes as she pieced it together. “You called the hospital, but they didn’t tell you anything. So you visited it yourself earlier today, and they told you I died. But I hadn’t really, Oh, God! Vicky, that genie did something terrible.”

It was at that point that Emory crumpled to the ground. Her chest heaved with weeping gasps. Victoria kneeled beside her. So that’s how it had happened. She felt hot tears creep down her cheeks, and there was nothing she could do to stop them.

***

A single knock was the only warning Oreo had before Raven walked through the locked door. Raven had been doing all day, walking though walls and anything else in her path. Oreo really didn’t have cause for comment, though, since she hadn’t touched ground since she woke up this afternoon.

“Other people have to use the bathroom too, you know.” Raven grabbed her toothbrush and furiously started brushing.

Oreo looked at Raven in the mirror. “Have you seen X-Raytor around?”

Raven spat. “We lined the bathroom with lead a long time ago.”

“What? No, I woke up with this,” Oreo said, pointing to the tattoo on her upper arm. The word FOREVER was written on a banner held up by two doves. “Right-Wing Man must’ve got it when he turned into me and somehow, I don’t know how, it stayed with me. X-Raytor and I are supposed to nighthawk and then he’s going to burninate this tattoo right off.”

“No, I haven’t seen him all day,” Raven said. “But Scarlett was looking for you earlier.”

Oreo paled. “Does this have to do with her hair?”

“Cwahahahahahahaha!”

“I didn’t know the haircut was going to stick!”

“She’s going to kill you!” Raven declared gleefully. “It’ll be like the Midnight thing all over again!”

Oreo looked at Raven as if she was demented. “There was never any Midnight thing! And even if there was, that was just a boy, but this, with her hair-“

“OREO!” Even though the lead-lined walls, they heard her clearly.

“Quick! I need to get out!” Oreo frantically looked for an escape. “Why doesn’t this room have any windows! Okay, I’m going out the door. Raven, if you find me chopped up in the freezer, don’t believe the suicide note.

***

Scarlett looked at her figure in the mirror of the Justice League Walk-In Closet. She studied her bangs, her short dark hair that was starting, finally, to grow out, and the way her new hair style framed her face.

She'd gone through the whole grieving cycle: anger when she'd run around the Hall hunting down Oreo, guilt when she realized tossing Oreo's Oreo Satchel out a second story window of the Hall into the pool outside wasn't the most intelligent way of dealing with her loss (though it had been very satisfying), and depression. The only one left was denial, and Hamlet pushed the closet door open to reveal Scarlett's stylist, plucked from a residential California suburb.

"Erek!"

"Scarlett!" the stylist, a dark-haired boy in his early twenties said, mouth agape. "What happened?"

"Can you fix it?"

Erek studied her, his hand in his chin for a few moments. "Yes," he said finally. "And you'll look better than Catherine the Great."

"...ookay."

"I used to do her hair."

"Sure you did."

***

A little while later

"Oreo!" Scarlett shouted, walking down a hall and tossing her head from side to side as she did so, which let her once again long chestnut locks of hair whip back and forth , very sexily. "I promise I won't hurt you, Oreo!"

"Swear on your copy of Moulin Rouge!" a voice came from a room further down the hall."

"I swear on my copy of Moulin Rouge!"

Oreo stepped out into the hallway. "Your hair's back!"

"Yep!" Scarlett said, flouncing up to Oreo. "And I've had a lot of time to think about this, and I'm sorry I freaked out at you."

Oreo blinked in surprise. "Am I about to die or something? CLAIRE!"

"No, you're not about to die. I've just been an idiot, and I'm sorry."

"In that case, I accept your apology."

"Really? 'Cause I've been a real bitch. The whole Midnight thing was really more a control thing, I think. If you want him, take him."

"Why does everyone think I like Midnight?"

Scarlett laughed. "What, and you're going to tell me the two of you didn't?"

"No!"

"Suuuure. Anyways, truce?" Scarlett stuck out her hand.

"Truce." They shook hands, and Oreo headed off to the kitchen to focus on something besides JL drama. Scarlett walked back down the hall and stopped at Jo's door. She knocked.

"I'm kinda busy!"

Scarlett opened the door anyways, revealing Jo Surf and Midnight Chatter sitting on Jo's bed, which took up most of the available floor space in the pseudo room. Jo was in his usual shirtless attire, and Midnight, contrary to his (un)conventional outfit, was also shirtless.

"...uh, I think I'll leave the two of you alone. I needed to talk to, uh, Right Wing Man!" Scarlett shouted as Right Wing Man came down the stairs. She slammed the door shut.

"Huh," said Jo. He shrugged. "No parasailing for her, I guess."

"My aunt was scared to go parasailing. The word reminded her of Christopher Reeves, you know, quadripalegic, parapalegic. Parasailing is like being parapalegic because your legs aren't good for much when you're up there in the air with them just dangling. Unless a shark jumps up to eat you, then you can kick it, but you could lose your toes that way, and then if you get into trouble, the threat of being strung up by your toes doesn't carry much weight. But parasails accommodate people of all sizes. I think. My aunt was a pretty big lady, so maybe that's why she didn't like parasailing." Midnight said.

Jo stared at Midnight for a couple of seconds. "Dude. Let's go skydiving instead."

******

Oreo made her way into the kitchen, but she hadn't been there long when the doorbell rang. Someone had programmed it to play "You Can't Touch This," and Oreo noticed Xiao start dancing in the living room. The others were out day-hawking. Oreo opened the door.

One of Donnell Trumpo's tyros was on the other side. "Is Boyd Billeh here? There's been a misunderstanding about the charity date auction."

"Misunderstanding?"

"Yes. You see, we thought he was representing the other Justice League. They're the ones we want. The Justice League of America."

"I knew we should've copyrighted that name when we had the chance..."

"Is he here?"

"No, he's at his office. So we're not doing the date auction?"

"No."

"Okay. Have a nice day!" Oreo said, then shut the door. Boyd Billeh could break the news to everyone else.

***

Two hours later, many thousands of feet up in the air

"Jo, I don't think this was a good idea, this falling from a really high place thing. I think I'm getting deja vu, and that's almost as bad as watching The View. Star Jones is scary. A buddy of mine said they almost cast her as the Belroc in Fellowship of the Ring, and--"

"Midnight, just chill. I'm sure everything will be fin--dude, is that another plane coming straight for us?"

"No, it's too...blade-like to be a plane. Maybe a battle ax. Those are--"

"I've got a bad feeling about this, man. I'm gonna call Scarlett, get the 409 on this little deuce coupe."

"Isn't that a bathroom cleaner?"

Jo ignored him and waited for Scarlett to pick up, even as he and Midnight were getting their parachutes on and ready for the jump. She didn't pick up, so he closed it, fairly sure that the pilot could handle whatever the object was. He didn't realize he hadn't turned it off.

******

Back in the Hall of Justice

Scarlett noticed her phone was ringing and leapt up, mid-conversation, from her seat in the living room. She noticed it was Jo's number and flipped it on as she strode into the kitchen, where Oreo was doing something with Oreo ingredients.

"Thank God, Jo! I've been listening to Right Wing Man ramble about social security and U.N. Oil-for-Food and the color brown for 2 hours!"

Oreo looked at her t-shirt in dismay. "So that's why he's always staring..."

"Jo? Hello?" Scarlett looked at Oreo. "He's not saying anything."

"Try the speaker phone."

Scarlett did so, and for a few seconds, all they heard was static and Jo humming Kokomo to himself. And then, a distant but still distinct voice came through the static.

"Ram the Blade ship!"